It's practically a fact of life in Singapore that staying alive just gets more and more expensive each year. We're paying way more for restaurant meals and private healthcare, amongst other things, than we were just a few years ago.
So it might surprise you to know that there are some things that have actually gotten cheaper over the years-and we're not just talking about prices that have been adjusted for inflation. Here are three things that were super expensive 20 years ago, but are now fairly affordable.
In the early 2000s, budget airlines hadn't hit our shores yet. As a student, I remember travelling to Bangkok over the weekend and paying $400 for a package including flight on Thai Airways and accommodation at a hotel.
These days, it costs you less than $100 to fly to Bangkok, and thanks to Airbnb you can stay in a fairly luxurious apartment for less than $20 per person per night. A 3D2N trip would cost you less than $200 in airfare and accommodation charges.
Budget airlines have made it a lot cheaper for Singaporeans to flee the country over public holidays, and there are many young professionals who take more than 5 overseas vacations a year. Over the years, budget airlines have expanded their routes to include destinations like Japan, Korea, Australia, and most recently, Greece.
Budget travel no longer has to mean sleeping in a flea-infested hostel bunk, thanks to the sharing economy and sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing.
But most palpably, the Singapore dollar has gotten a lot stronger over the years, while currencies like the Japanese Yen and the Euro have weakened considerably. Singaporeans might always complain about feeling like paupers in their own country, but once they go abroad, everything looks cheap in comparison.
My first mobile phone was a Nokia 8210-yes, the one with interchangeable covers. It cost close to $400.
Sure, you'll tell me that there are iPhones on the market now which cost close to $1,000. But on the other end of the scale, you can pick up a brand new smartphone for under $200. And that's if you pay full price and don't buy from a telco where you have a subscription.
The price of digital cameras has also plummeted, and you can get a decent compact camera for $150. Let's rewind the clock back to 2006, when you'd easily find yourself paying $500 for a very basic Canon compact camera with 3.2 megapixel resolution.
Unfortunately, many Singaporeans find themselves spending more rather than less when they chase after the latest technology. But those who are willing to stick with midrange buys will find the average price of gadgets falling.
In the early 2000s, before online shopping took hold in Singapore, only a brave few tried to buy stuff online, usually on eBay. Some students started signing up for debit cards just for that purpose.
Calculating shipping charges was always scary, because it could get expensive fast. People started using shipping services like vPost to avoid paying millions to ship their buys back home. You usually only bought items you could not find in Singapore, since it cost so much.
Fast forward to 2016, and everybody and their grandma shops online. Many even choose to turn to the internet to buy products that are available on Orchard Road, which partly explains why the malls are turning into ghost towns.
These days, one big reason why we shop online is simply because it's cheaper to do so. Many major online stores like Target, ASOS, iHerb, Newegg and Modcloth now ship to Singapore, some for free if you spend above a certain amount. Add to that a strong Singapore dollar and it's easy to see why braving the weekend mall crowds is looking more and more unattractive.
Then there's the fact that retail prices in Singapore have skyrocketed in order to keep pace with rising rents. It now costs less to buy many things online, even if you have to get them shipped over from abroad, than to buy them in our own brick and mortar stores.
When Singapore gets more expensive, it just means that buying things from overseas is cheaper in comparison. And so long as online shopping and budget airlines exist, Singaporeans are just going to spend their money elsewhere.
The article first appeared on MoneySmart.
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